What Is Pico de Gallo?

A Mexican salsa for those who like it mild

What Is... Pico de Gallo?
iStock/anthonyjhall

Pico de gallo is a simple mixture of chopped fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and a little bit of jalapeño. In Spanish, "pico de gallo" literally means "rooster’s beak," a term supposedly coined from the practice of eating the salsa with a pinching motion using one’s thumb and index finger. At your neighborhood Tex-Mex joint, though, this tasty relish is probably also referred to simply as "mild."

It’s common to find this ubiquitous condiment spooned over tacos, wrapped inside burritos, or simply served with some fresh tortilla chips. Even better, spoon it over your eggs in the morning and replace the bacon or toast with some beans. (Photo courtesy of Veer/Danny Hooks)

It’s pretty hard to mess up pico de gallo, but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make it better. It should go without saying, but you want to use fresh, ripe tomatoes. Seed them if you don’t want the salsa getting soggy. To keep the heat level down, as with any chile pepper, you can scrape out the seeds and membranes of the jalapeño pepper; make sure to wear gloves when working with chiles to keep the capsaicin from getting on your skin, which can cause a burning sensation. Most importantly, let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. It’ll be worth the wait.

For the uninitiated or those who think they can’t handle spice, pico de gallo is the gateway salsa, a hint at the enticing flavor combinations of stronger, hotter salsas like salsa de árbol. Give it a try — just be warned, you’ll be hooked after your first bite.

Click here to see 7 Homemade Salsa Recipes.


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